The Truth About Blacks and the Curse of Cain - Origins
Black Americans have no monopoly on enduring discrimination or prejudice in American society. What sets them apart is their legal status before the Emancipation Proclamation as property and the legal racism that occurred mostly in the American South to disenfranchise this group. Religion manifested the prejudices of the White Americans in the past as they believed themselves to be the pinnacle of God's creations and the center of culture and righteousness. Any race or heritage that did not reflect European society was considered substandard and Christianity for the vast majority of Caucasians supported White supremacy.
The curse of Cain was one narrative that many White Christians interpreted as the origin story for Blacks of African descent. Among those Christians who taught this perspective were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Why is that important?
The Church of Jesus Christ is the restored Church of Jesus Christ in the last days before the return of Christ. Owing to this truth, Saints of African descent are exposed to the racist teachings to one degree or another and have to reconcile internally how to live their faith in a culture of White supremacy, though the leaders of the Church actively seek to address this social challenge in the racially charged United States of America.
Some Saints believed (and many still do believe) that African Blacks carry the mark of the curse of Cain through Ham and his wife Egyptus in the form of a high concentration of melanin.
It is also true that many other Christians held fast to that notion also for decades who made public apologies for so doing. Officially the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has never taught that Black Africans are the seed of Cain represented on the earth as Satan's seed or that they sat idly by in the war in heaven.
These two ideas are, however, still a part of the lore of some of the members of The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saint. One unique teaching to the members of the Church is the tradition that the seed of Cain did not valiantly support Jehovah in the premortal War in Heaven. Since Latter-day Saints believe and the Church teaches that humans lived in heaven as spirits before birth on earth, the culture of exclusion supported the policies of racial discrimination among the Saints and the upholding of exclusionary practices towards Black Saints.
Orson Hyde’s Black Lineage Logic and its Effect on the Church
Unofficially, however, leaders and members have expressed these ideas since the beginning. Arguably the father of the idea, Orson Hyde used logic to deduce that slavery and bondage of the African Black is the result of actions before this life.
Hyde postulated that some of the children of God failed to perform valiantly in the pre-mortal world of spirits. Those less valiant ones were reserved to fill the lineage of Cain and eventually Ham concluded Hyde. He surmised that some of the spirits of heaven thought Lucifer had a legitimate claim to the government of heaven, therefore,
Those spirts in heaven that rather lent an influece to the devil, thinking he had a little the best right to govern, but did not take a very active part any way were required to come into the world and take bodies in the accursed lineage of Canaan; and hence the negro of African race. 1
Offensive? Yes. True? No Church doctrine confirms it to be so. Nothing explicitly exists to give a firm answer to the veracity of that teaching. The teachings were never an official doctrine of the Church, but that does not imply that it is false just because it is not taught.
The fact that it is not a canonical doctrine of the Church did not change the popular acceptance of the logic by members of the Church to support the exclusionary policy towards Black Saints. The teachings based on Hyde's postulate found their way into unofficial writings of the Church and even missionary literature. Those teachings have been removed presently in all works associated with Church literature.
The Prophet Refutes Hyde's Claim
President Brigham Young refuted the possibility of this falsehood according to the words of President Wilford Woodruff who recorded President Young's response to the question of whether Blacks of African descent were less valiant in the pre-mortal life. Recorded he:
President Young said no they were not. There were no neutral spirits in heaven at the time of the rebellion. All took sides. He said if anyone said that he heard the Prophet Joseph say that the spirits of the Blacks were neutral in heaven, he would not believe them, for he heard Joseph say to the contrary. All spirits are pure that come from the presence of God. 2
Young's words went in direct contradiction to Hyde's postulate that Blacks sat by and did not participate in the great battle for Jehovah. For many Christians, this is a non-issue since they do not believe in pre-mortal life. However, for the Saints, it is a very poignant position to clarify since many people have been disillusioned by past statements of church leaders and the practice of banning Black men from officiating in priesthood ordinances because of a presumed curse based on the idea of pre-mortal disfavor.
No soul sat idly by in the war commenced in heaven, but all souls chose either to support the chosen Jesus Christ with His captain Michael or support Lucifer and the cohort that rebelled with him. It is of great importance that all Christians know that no person ever born rejected Jehovah, not even Cain. All the strength of character that he used to fight God in mortality he used to support Jehovah in his premortal life.
Hyde meant well in his attempt to support the ban that President Young presented to the Church regarding Blacks of African descent –free or not. This, however, does not answer the question of whether or not Blacks of African descent are the descendants of Cain.
Birth of the Priesthood Ban
President Young announced that the Negro shall not receive the priesthood until God gives him revelation stating to do so. He was speaking to the Utah territorial government as the governor, but the policy he issued became the policy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints nonetheless. The Church at that time was comprised of, mostly, White abolitionists.
Mormons historically did not support slavery or the mistreatment of any person or group simply because of appearance. The pronouncement from President Brigham Young, however, remained in effect until the Lord did open the Heavens and reveal that all worthy men are eligible to receive and function in the priesthood of God June 20, 1978.
Many attempts along the century-long journey to understand the origins of President Young's pronouncement have surfaced unprofitable. He made a declaration that became Church policy. His declaration was based on the cultural situation at the time--including his dealings with Black Saints.
A minority of historians suggest that William McCary's actions in Winter Quarters, Nebraska influenced Brigham Young's decision to initiate the priesthood ban. McCary was a biracial member of the Church who claimed to have revelatory powers and supernatural gifts following his baptism.
Winter Quarters, Nebraska
He was excommunicated for apostasy in March 1847 for his assertions but continued to lobby followers to his cause and adding women to his version of plural marriage. According to some historians, the fact that McCary married White women elicited a negative reaction from the members at Winter Quarters towards all Blacks garnering support of the later declarations by Brigham young and the ban on the priesthood.
Parley P Pratt, an apostle in the Church at the time, expressed the opinion weeks after McCray's excommunication that McCray did not have the right to hold the priesthood because of his lineage through the loins of Ham whose son was cursed to the rights of the priesthood.
This view distinguished all Blacks who went after McCray as lost souls. It is very likely McCray was the last straw that allowed Brigham Young to exercise his view as a matter of policy during a gubernatorial address.
God is no respecter regarding the origin of human physical heritage since all Saints have been purified by the Holy Ghost searing the impurity of their physical genealogy and changing their beings into the offspring of Jesus Christ! A mouthful, yes but true.
There is no curse upon a child of Christ no matter what he or she may have been before baptism! President Spencer W. Kimball and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints received a revelation from God to extend the priesthood or authority to act in the name of God to all men in June of 1978.
What does it mean to Saints now that the curse of Cain is no longer supported with the false teaching of premortal assignment due to less valiance? Are Blacks the seed of Cain? Officially, the Church is silent. Realistically, there is a possibility that everyone has a little of the genetic material of Cain. There may be groups of people who have less or more, but Egyptus had many descendants who formed many nations of people. Some of them were Black and some of them were not. God never mentioned the mark of the curse would be dark skin or tightly curled hair.
The next of this series of articles looks at members of the Church who try to educate others about the place of Blacks in the scriptures and the true nature of the curse of Cain.
- The Truth About Blacks and the Curse of Cain: What is the Curse?
The Church was not the only mostly White religion that taught along the lines of a curse on Blacks due to being the descendants of Cain; however, it was the only church claiming to be the Lord's restored church at the time. This is part two.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Rodric Anthony Johnson